Toughie 2154 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2154

Toughie No 2154 by Notabilis

Hints and tips by Dutch

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BD Rating – Difficulty **/***Enjoyment *****

Lots of fun from Notabilis today. 6a was almost my first one in but I delayed, suddenly doubting the plural. I then bunged in SAILOR for 23a, soon corrected. Several words I did not know but which were clear from the wordplay and could then be confirmed in a dictionary. I managed to spot the Nina halfway through and it helped me to complete the left hand side and 19d. Took me a while to see a few of the parsings.

Definitions are underlined. The hints aim to help you with the wordplay but you can always reveal the answers by clicking on the sprocket buttons. Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


6a    About time the best should stop efforts to see horny old beasts (13)
TRICERATOPSES: A 1-letter Latin abbreviation for about, a time or age, and a 4-letter word meaning ‘the best’ should stop (as in plug or fill) a word meaning efforts or attempts

8a    Children’s writer rebuffed the northern Norwegian one (6)
NESBIT: Reversal (rebuffed) of ‘the’ in northern dialect plus a Norwegian writer/playwright

9a    Impede recall of alkalinity measurement involving caustic soda ingredient (8)
HANDICAP: A reversal (recall) of: the 2-letter alkalinity measurement covering (involving) another word for caustic or stinging (eg of a remark, or literally) and the chemical symbol for an ingredient of soda, for which i’ve only just twigged the etymology – duh.

10a    Hardly anyone said that’s a relief (3)
FEW: A homophone (said) of an interjection meaning “that’s a relief”

11a    Storey remodelled by secretive person (6)
OYSTER: An anagram (remodelled) of STOREY

12a    Copper part of turret’s erratically rotating (8)
ARRESTER: Reverse hidden (part of … rotating)

14a    Recorded over silence with one bar level topping another (1-6)
T-SHAPED: A verb meaning recorded covers (over) a 2-letter interjection meaning silence

16a    Sister almost comprehending Spanish is a great musician (7)
MAESTRO: A 6-letter head-sister without the last letter (almost) surrounds (comprehending) the Spanish word for ‘is’

20a    Perhaps a smoker‘s mellow, obscuring end of bloody horror film (8)
CARRIAGE: Mostly non-smoker’s these days! The last letter (end) of Brian De Palma’s adaptation of a Stephen King novel (bloody indeed) is obscured by a 3-letter word meaning mellow or ripen

23a    Salt, maybe an inhabitant of the ocean? (6)
SEASON: An inhabitant of the ocean could be a child of the deep

24a    Erstwhile home of Biggs and Orbison, off and on (3)
RIO: Even letters (off and on) in Orbison. Ronnie Biggs, the train robber.

25a    Assistant nurse’s last to enter hospital chapel site in turn (8)
HELPMEET: The last letter of nurse enters the abbreviation for Hospital plus a reversal (in turn) of a chapel site (where you might find a chapel), i.e., a larger place of worship. Not a word I’ve seen before.

26a    Stone cask over ground, it’s used by bakers (6)
NUTMEG: A reversal (over) of a precious stone and a cask or vat

27a    Unusual development in intro to tune by Muse, English rock band (13)
TERATOGENESIS: The first letter (intro) of tune, the Muse of poetry, and an English rock band originally including Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins


1d    Loaf a bit, dancing with a cat (8)
CIABATTA: An anagram (dancing) of A BIT with A CAT

2d    Having rooms on the house torn away? (4-4)
RENT-FREE: A word for torn and a word for away

3d    Touch suspicious, not seeing any resistance to win, or nearly (4,3)
EACH WAY: The answer is a betting term. A 5-letter word for touch or extend to and a 4-letter word meaning suspicious, *both* dropping the abbreviation for resistance (not seeing *any* resistance)

4d    Republican nobody introduces lunchtime mischief in DC (6)
NOONER: The abbreviation for republican is preceded (introduced) by a word meaning nobody. The answer is an informal American word (in DC) meaning a quickie at lunch

5d    Jellied preparations like shots (6)
ASPICS: A word for like and a word for shots, of the photographic kind

6d    What’s moved passes time on clock, with First Lady keeping Mohammed’s wife inside (3,4,4,2)
THE AYES HAVE IT: The abbreviation for time plus a verb meaning to clock (with a fist), inside of which we have the first lady in the Bible keeping Mohammed’s wife (there are several spellings for this name)

7d    American force in tatters, so rope deployed (5,8)
STATE TROOPERS: An anagram (deployed) of TATTERS SO ROPE

13d    Female on farm following zigzag path? (3)
EWE: If each letter in the answer is taken as a compass direction, this would present a zigzag path

15d    Letter from company offering connections to the north (3)
PSI: Reversal (to the north, in a down clue) of a type of company offering internet connections

17d    Buffoon in contact with six-footer having correspondence (8)
ASSONANT: A buffoon or idiot, a preposition meaning ‘in contact with’, and a six-footer

18d    Sir, maths needs revising pronto (8)
SMARTISH: An anagram (needs revising) of SIR MATHS

19d    Old fool and minister climbing, not having the head for it? (7)
VERTIGO: Reversal (climbing) of the abbreviation for old, a fool, and a title for a minister. The definition makes use of ‘climbing’ in the wordplay.

21d    Bang on 24, for example (6)
REPORT: A short word meaning on or with reference to, plus what 24a is an example of

22d    Fury of possibly bitter chief technical officer (6)
ALECTO: A drink, possibly bitter, plus the abbreviation for Chief Technical Officer

Great surface readings throughout. I really liked touch suspicious, bang on 24, loaf a bit, but my favourite has to be the Republican nobody causing lunchtime mischief in DC. Which clues did you like?

13 comments on “Toughie 2154

  1. I always love a day when the name Notabilis appears at the top of the Toughie page and this crossword didn’t disappoint. I was held up by putting SEADOG in 23a – which I thought suggested a possible inhabitant of the ocean – but then realised that the word I needed for the Nina had to end in an N

    Too many clues I really liked to list so I’ll just say that my Across Favourite is 8a and my Down favourite 13a – both simple but fun

    Thanks to Notabilis for the excellent Toughie and Dutch for the review

  2. Another really enjoyable puzzle from Notabilis (although I didn’t find it as gentle as Dutch). I’d not heard of the 27a unusual development or the 22d Fury though the wordplay was very helpful in arriving at both.
    The highlight for me was looking up the answer to 4d and finding out just what sort of mischief was involved.
    I liked 10a, 14a and 16a – my favourite was the aforementioned 4d.
    Thanks to Notabilis and Dutch.

  3. Wonderful enjoyment in this one. A good few indeed to choose from, but like Sue I had a fit of the giggles with the northern dramatist, so it would have to be that one. A really fun Friday!

    Thanks Notabilis and Dutch.

  4. I was able to finish this, but only just, and it was mighty hard work. For me it was a good deal more difficult than **/***. Ultimately there were too many unchecked first letters, and too many things I hadn’t heard of to be completely enjoyable (the northern dialect in 8a, the unusual development in 27a, the mischief in 4d, the fury in 22d, and the assistant in 25a). Although I suspected a Nina, I wasn’t able to find its make up (and I hadn’t heard of one of the components) until I had almost finished. Thanks to Notabilis and Dutch.

  5. For a long time I didn’t think I was going to finish at all. 6d and 13d I only understood after reading Dutch’s explanation. 27a, 4d and 22d all taught me something new. 20a and 15d were my favourites for lateral thinking in the word play.

    Thanks to Notabilis for the mental workout and Dutch for the clarification.

  6. I would be most grateful for a more detailed explanation of 20 across. I cannot see the last letter of Stephen King’s novel or the 3 letter word for mellow. Thanks in anticipation

    1. You’ve shortened your alias so this comment required moderation. Both aliases will work from now on.
      AGE (a verb to mellow) replaces (obscuring) the last letter of CARRIE (the Steven King novel and film) so we get CARRI AGE.

  7. Great puzzle. Spotted it was likely to be a nina early on, but I’d never hear of a crena – luckily Google had. 4d is a new one on me. US slang? really?? 22d my favourite. Thanks Nobilis and Dutch.

  8. This took us at least 4-star solving time. We also only found half of the Nina as we did not know CRENA and had put in SEADOG for 23a. The other new words for us are the ones that are mentioned above but we did manage to get them all sorted with a bit of Googling. Plenty to keep us challenged and smiling with the occasional laugh out loud.
    Thanks Notabilis and Dutch.

  9. I found this nicely challenging, Friday-suitable certainly, while not as diabolical as they get. Like Dutch I took a while over some of the parsing. The SW corner was the last to give up all of its secrets.

    Three new words for me (27a, 4d, 22d), but managed them from the wordplay.

    Like Tony I found the nina of limited help, though I kept an eye on the perimeter. It did help me to finish … in the end.

    My favourites are 1d (a great way to spend an evening), 2d and 13d.

    Many thanks to Notabilis, who consistently produces brilliant crosswords, and to Dutch, who consistently produces brilliant reviews of tough Toughies.

  10. Hit a complete brick wall with 6d which led to a couple of fails in the intersecting across answers. Quite a few things I had to check with Mr Google and – having missed the Nina – I put in SEADOG for 23a and thought it fitted admirably with the wordplay.
    Must be a long time since our setter has travelled by train – haven’t seen a smokers’ 20a in years!

    Thanks to Notabilis and to Dutch for helping me to get a completed grid.

  11. I am 100% in the dunce corner for my initial, but later corrected parsing of 20a. Other than that at least 4* for me difficulty despite knowing my muses and furies. Also initially had both seadog and sailor pencilled in originally for 23a. Thanks to Notabilis and Dutch.

    Re 20a. I have done many long distance journeys by train, from Amtrak to Trans Siberian and the harrowing Waterloo to Bournemouth on a Friday night after work …. with Bottles of wine. But how I miss that carriage, getting to chat to disparate outcasts not glued to phones

  12. Difficult but rewarding, this was a particularly virtuosic one. But then there are so many suited to the cadenza among the Toughie’s compilers!

    Thank you indeed for a fine afternoon’s solving.

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